When he was only three years old singer/songwriter Armar’rae Hill’s father, Rev. Orlando Ray Hill, placed him behind a drum kit even though his feet couldn’t even touch the pedals. That was also the year the Gary, Indiana native learned to plug in and play a keyboard. “My dad and bonded over music,” he says. “We used to sing together and I learned to write songs with him.”
Hill spent many days of his youth playing in the bandstand at his father’s church, Day of Pentecost COGIC. The elder Hill was a shepherd to his congregation and sought a better life for the congregation in spite of ongoing health challenges. “He had sickle cell anemia,” his son recalls. “He was always in the hospital 3-4 times a month my whole life.”
When he graduated from high school, Hill struck out on his own. He got his own apartment and a part time job at Lens Crafters. “The job didn’t pay enough to cover my bills so I got evicted,” he says. “I lived in my car a week, then I went to a friend’s house before my twin sister, Armeda, had me come down to Bloomington where she lives to finish college.”
During that period, Hill founded his own vocal ensemble, True Foundation. His dad was excited for him, pushed him to get a recording deal with Verity Records (now RCA Inspiration) and father and son had plans to do a concert together in the near future.
“It never happened,” Hill says. “I tried to call him around midnight December 5, 2005 and his wife answered the phone and said he was in hospital. I didn’t think anything of that because he was always in and out of the hospital. So, I went to bed and planned to call him that morning and tell him I loved him. His wife called me around 8 a.m. and told me that he had heart attack and died. He wasn’t even 50 years old.”
His father’s death threw Armar’rae Hill into a depression. “I wanted to give up my music because I didn’t care about anything after he died,” Hill confesses. “I didn’t care how I looked, my hair was falling out. There were many things my dad wanted to do in terms of ministry and it was prophesied that I’d carry on that mantle. I eventually said, `I’m going to do this for my dad.”
Hill earned his degree in business at Indiana University-Bloomington and developed a circle of Christian friends who encouraged his faith. “They were people who loved God,” he adds. “They nurtured me and kept me strong.”
Hill eventually married and moved to South Bend in 2007 where he became an executive manager at Sears. He’s written songs with a number of recording artists and shared stages with the likes of Kim Burrell and Israel Houghton.
Although, Hill and his group have recorded an album before, they are now releasing their first song nationally on the album Kerry Douglas Presents Gospel Mix VI that features songs by musical heavyweights such as Tamela Mann, Ruben Studdard and Lalah Hathaway. The beautiful ballad “The Greatest” closes the album.
“I wanted to sing to God and about God,” he says. “I wanted to call God by His name of Yahweh. So my music director had some music and we sat down and wrote that song in about fifteen 15 minutes and then recorded it the next day.”